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Wednesday, 15 May 2013
Page: 3376

Mr McCORMACK (Riverina) (10:56): I rise to support the words of the shadow minister, most importantly, as he stated, that the existing framework for court security does not meet the needs of the modern court environment. That was a concern raised by the heads of jurisdiction of the Commonwealth courts, following consultation with the government in relation to this bill and in relation to the provisions of current court security arrangements.

Certainly, our courts are the hallmark of our democracy—as is the parliament—and the people working in those courts, whether they be officers of the Crown, police officers, or whether they be defendants or people involved in cases, need to have proper security and adequate security measures. They need to know that when they attend court they can do so in a safe environment. This bill goes part of the way, or all of the way, towards helping to improve these arrangements so that people can have that safety and security in the knowledge that they can attend court in a safe environment. The consequences of a breach of security in these circumstances are a serious issue, and the measures proposed in this bill seem adequate and proportionate. It is important that cases are heard, as the shadow minister just related, without fear, violence or intimidation. The powers that appointed security officers and authorised court officers may exercise in respect of screening, giving directions or removing a person from court premises appear, according to this bill, reasonable and necessary to enhance the security of the federal courts.

Furthermore, the measures proposed in the bill may go part of the way to providing court users—particularly those who reasonably fear attending court proceedings and unfortunately that is a great number of people—with improved certainty that their case will be heard in a safe and secure environment. The Court Security Bill 2013 and the associated consequential amendments bill make substantive alterations to security provisions by the Commonwealth courts and the tribunals.

Unfortunately, it is a necessary bill that we need to implement. It seeks to implement the current legislative framework for Commonwealth court and tribunal security arrangements, and would expand the range of powers available to security officers and authorised court officers, who need to know that their work is important and that the important work they do can be conducted in a safe environment. The new security arrangements will be uniform across all Commonwealth courts, including the Family Court of Western Australia and the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. Family courts, as we all know, are places where tempers can rise. They are places where there is a lot of emotion and sometimes emotion boils over into fear, intimidation and violence.

Hopefully, this bill will make it a far more secure and safe environment for all those people attending the court whatever the necessity. Presently the legislative framework for security at Commonwealth courts and tribunals is contained in part IIA of the Public Order (Provision of Persons and Property) Act 1971. This legislation is outdated. It needs to be improved upon. It needs to be regulated such that it brings it up to speed with 2013 expectations. This bill and amendment do just that and the coalition therefore supports it.

Mr NEUMANN: I thank honourable members for their contribution to the debate. The measures contained in the Court Security Bill and the accompanying Court Security (Consequential Amendments) Bill help to make sure that federal court and tribunal premises are safe and secure for people to resolve disputes. Those people using courts are often under stress and in distress. Court processes can be daunting and financially costly, particularly for those matters involving family law. I can say, with more than two decades of practice in the jurisdiction of family law, that you see from time to time the stress, anger and hostility that people face in the courts.

Everyone who goes to court should go there without fear of intimidation, violence or abuse. This right forms a critical part of any civil society and is also important in ensuring the integrity of the court processes. I stress that these security arrangements and enhancements will not quite make court buildings or rights of entry more difficult or arduous for members of the public, rather they are there as a necessity to ensure that people, even in the most trying of difficult circumstances, can be confident that they can go to the courts and have their disputes resolved in a safe and amiable environment.

This Court Security Bill is a product of the government's close consultation with the federal courts and tribunals to identify a more effective security framework. That framework established by this piece of legislation is comprehensive. It will support the federal courts and tribunals in making sure that any serious security issues they face across the various locations across Australia are addressed. They will be flexible enough in different security arrangements to deal with those. The enhanced powers conferred on security officers and authorised court officers by the bill will prevent security incidents from arising on those premises. Where they arise, they ensure that those particularly appointed officials and officers can deal with them expeditiously and appropriately.

The bill includes important safeguards and accountability mechanisms. These include: licensing, training and identification requirements. These safeguards are important. They ensure that the powers authorised by the bill are used responsibly in appropriate circumstances by people with good training, appropriate skills and education.

The courts will still call on the police, as they should, in the most serious situations. However, given that security incidents can arise with little warning, almost a moment's notice, and can erupt very violently with tremendous anger and abuse, it is important that the courts have security and safety at the forefront, and ensure that the safety and security of the premises are secured before the police arrive on the premises.

The bills appropriately modernise the legal framework for the courts and tribunal security arrangements. They ensure that those accessing our courts and tribunals can be confident in the safety and security of the premises they attend to have their cases heard and can have their arguments heard before a court without abuse, intimidation and violence. I commend the bills to the House.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.

Ordered that this bill be reported to the House without amendment.